Friday, July 27, 2007
Last Post.
Oh, relax, not the last post from me ever. Just the last one here.

I'm moving over to wordpress, and I do hope you'll follow me over and play there. New digs at:

I'm sorry, Blogger. I'm just not that into you.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Perhaps "Better" Wasn't the Right Word
Isn't this just the funnest thing ever?

I've been informed, in no uncertain terms, by two different doctors, that as long as my experience today of heart rate up over 120 for over an hour remains an isolated incident, with no pain, dizziness, or shortness of breath, then I'm allowed to consider it a fluke and continue living my normal daily life, but that if any of those other symptoms come and join the party, I'm to go to the nearest emergency room, strip down to a skimpy robe in front of my coworkers, and get checked out for a heart attack. Fabulous!

It sounds like what actually happened is that I didn't react well to my secondary migraine medication, naproxen (i.e., Aleve but in a higher dose). I take it for a week or so each month when my primary medication, Vicodin, runs out and they refuse to up the prescription, because 20 a month is safe but clearly 30 a month would be a serious danger to my health and welfare and I can't be trusted to make my own decisions there.

Sometimes I totally understand why people start using street drugs.

But I digress. This afternoon, I took a naproxen, with food, as directed, and then tried to lay down and take a nap. I'd taken my first trusty little Ativan earlier in the day and generally wanted to tune out. Staff meeting and then an annual gynecological exam makes for a long morning, you know?

So I slept for maybe 45 minutes, and then laid awake and listened to my heart throb away, about twice as fast as I'm used to. My knee-jerk reaction is to blame any new symptoms on the most recent medication I'm taking, but really, a racing heart rate and/or high blood pressure, whatever it was, seems like a very stupid side effect for an antianxiety medication to have. After a while I figured out that the naproxen is a newish prescription, too, and somehow that seemed like more likely a culprit.

But seeing as how my father had his first heart attack at 30, many in the medical community are sort of standing back and waiting for me to start with mine.

So, yeah, I don't know if it's exactly better living through chemistry, but it's certainly weirder. The plan for the moment is to switch me to a different NSAID (Relafen, whose primary warnings have to do with heart and circulation risks... seriously, funnest thing ever!) and see what happens. Now I'm anxious and dealing with intermittent migraine pain and anxious about getting migraine pain and taking the wrong medication and killing myself with it.

Are you seeing why I've not been blogging my brains out this week? There are some vibes that just don't need to be sent out into the wilderness.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Better Living Through Chemistry
It's been a long time since I've been on any form of psychoactive drugs. And I'm not even talking about the fun stuff that afterschool specials are made from, I mean antidepressant, antianxiety, generally make-your-brain-run-smoother type meds. A few choice chemicals helped me through some bad times in my adolescence and early 20s, but ever since being inflicted with motherhood and family life, I've had this weird, happy-type feeling. Almost like life was pretty good, or something.

There were a few dark periods, most especially about a year after Jacob's birth (when I wouldn't take meds because I was all up on the breastfeeding-no-chemicals thing, which I recognize was ill-advised but stuck through it anyway) and then again from early 2006 for several months after I dealt with the fact that I'd effectively sold my career for the price of a healthy family. I'd make the same decision again now, but this time I'd find a way to somehow be insured and not broke, so that I could go through the resulting readjustments with a little help from my meds.

But now we come to, well, now. I'm not depressed, exactly; things are pretty good for me, I feel happy more days than not. But between Emily being at camp and the resulting junk that's bringing up for me, my dad being in limbo in a job he hates and waiting for a new one and newly single after a long, slow train-wreck of a relationship came to a grinding, clunking halt, Willem being something less than his usual sunshiney, rainbowy self while he studies and braces for his comprehensive exams, and a pile of other small but transient concerns, I'm stressing. I'm not sleeping much at all, and not well then, and I'm letting myself get roped into small petty arguments (Willem and I snarked about spaghetti sauce for 20 minutes this afternoon), and generally not liking me a whole lot.

So I took what, for me, is a huge step, and called my doctor, and tomorrow will pick up a 2-week supply of Ativan. An antianxiety drug that works with each dose you take, rather than needing 4-6 weeks to reach optimum blood levels a la antidepressants. By the end of next month, most of my biggest, pressing concerns will have faded. Sure, I understand, you irrepressible optimists out there: they could all be replaced by new, even bigger concerns. But I'm working on activating my inner Pollyanna here, okay?

I don't need to be perfect, with smooth edges and serenity of soul and perky breasts. I just want to be good enough, and right now, I'm not.
Two More Lines
I did pretty well through the day, but now that it's dark and quiet here, I'm having a hard time heading to bed. I'm running about a thousand miles an hour inside my head, which is about 994 mph too fast for 1:00 a.m.

The good news is, I'm able to channel some of this nervous energy in the service of organizing my home:

Mary and I made a CD holder for Jacob's room, and chances are there will be one for Emily's room by the time she comes home. The kids have, between them, probably 20 of the Most Annoying Bouncy Children's Music, and they also routinely request "Mama music" or "Daddy music." Apparently Mama music runs in the realm of Jack Johnson or Barenaked Ladies, and Daddy music is more along the lines of Opeth and Rush. Jacob gets very unhappy when I dare to play something he deems to be non-Mama music in the car, but from long, long ago, we told our kids that kids' CDs don't play in our cars, so they have to cope with whatever we choose.

Cuts down on road rage, you see.

Anyway, Jacob's CD player sits on a shelf several inches above my head, which made finding a given CD more of a challenge than I liked (read: took all of 15 seconds instead of my preferred 2). So, viola! A display from the various previous crafts we've done, including trimming Emily's flower girl dress and making beanbags.

I was manic enough about it to make Willem step out of the bedroom at 12:15 and growl, "Howmuchlongerareyougonnarunthatthing?"

To which I replied with my very best impression of a cocaine addict: a sheepish grin, an innocent shrug, and a muttered, "Just two more lines, babe. Just two more lines."

I have to appear in court tomorrow. Well, today. I should try that sleeping thing soon. Wish me luck!
Monday, July 23, 2007
Just Another Migraine Monday
Well, really, the big bad headache was yesterday, magically appearing just as we turned onto the camp road. But I've had echoes today, not to mention a serious desire not to move much of anywhere. I'm not good at maintaining a good, solid level of anxiety over a prolonged period of time, and really, I've worked through a lot of that stuff already. Yesterday was bad, today has been so-so, by the end of the week I'll be fine.

Especially if my mother-in-law decides not to come out for Jacob's birthday on the weekend because, as she explained to Willem in intimate, painful detail while standing in the middle of a Toys-Backwards-R-Us, she has watery diarrhea. How fun is that?

Anyway, so, thank you. All of you. It helps, the support and encouragement. I called the camp today, and they hadn't heard of a single homesick camper amongst the eight in Emily's cabin, which I consider to be a good sign. I still asked them to have the counselor call me back sometime this evening, because right now talking to someone who has talked to her today is the closest I can get.

And I take it as a good sign that I'm still able to find things like this seriously funny. With, of course, a sociall appropriate level of disapproval.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Summer Camp
The last time I went to summer camp as a camper, I was twelve years old. I'd started going around eight or nine, so by then, it was more of a comforting tradition then a new adventure. I knew it was my last year as a camper, but I also knew I could return the next year as a counselor's aide, and eventually as a full counselor. Quite the aspiration, back then.

The first six days went just like every other year, with the typical camp stuff. I woke up on the last morning on my back, in the woods, alone. I was bleeding profusely from two separate knife wounds, likely had a mild concussion, and couldn't hear anything. I still don't know if I was in shock and briefly deaf, or if it was just so intensely, perfectly quiet that there was nothing to hear. I don't think I knew the word rape yet.

The attacker was a fellow camper, who had lied about his age in order to slide under the below-13 rule. He was 16, and had gone with the specific mission of breaking a bitch in. He'd told me this during a lull in the night's activities, and I never asked whether this was an individual plan or a gang thing. I didn't care. I still don't.

I made it home with the help of an accomplice of his, an adult and a counselor at the same camp. He who said all the right things to ensure maximum trauma and minimum healing: don't tell anyone, he'll find you and hurt you again... your parents won't believe you anyway... it happens all the time, no one cares...

It was at a church camp. I don't know where God was that particular evening. I didn't tell my parents until I was fifteen. I left home for college a year early, at seventeen, and will always be grateful that I was smart enough to escape then.

It was many years before I could withstand the physical sensation of being in the woods at night, and I still cannot lie on my back and look up at the sun through the leaves. My physical wounds healed over the course of several weeks; my emotional ones closed up after about ten or twelve years, with a few raw edges still vulnerable to the right - or wrong - combination of statements and sensory input, even now.

And yet, in less than an hour, I'm leaving to bring my seven-year-old daughter to her own summer camp. We're three states away, and it's an all-girls camp. She is as excited as any human can possibly be, and Emily has a special gift for radiating just a little more excitement than the rest of us. I consider it another rite of passage, parenthood-wise; letting your kids do the fun and innocent things that somehow twisted around to hurt you, and trusting that your experience was a fluke and not a genetic predestination. I will put on a smile for her, knowing in advance that sometimes my smile will get a little ragged and brittle around the edges, and I will wait until I'm back in the car to cry.

And she'll be all right. I believe this because it's true, and because I have to. She'll be okay.
Friday, July 20, 2007
Harry Secret and the Chamber of Pots
It was a long week. Work was rough, lots of extraneous stress going on, head exploded on Wednesday, blah blah blah. But I took Mary out to her first non-restaurant bar (read: total dive bar) last night, for my weekly knitting group, and had the horrifying realization that I'm a regular. At a bar. And I don't drink.

She never even got a stern look, much less carded. (Though, Mom, no. She didn't drink. Didn't even try. We do all our heavy drinking at home.)

Having survived that, then, we felt duty-bound to dredge ourselves off the couch and keep our date for tonight, which was to go down to Barnes & Noble to people-watch during the seventh Harry Potter book pre-release extravaganza. My friend G is a manager there, so we got a random glimpse or two of her, spent some time wandering the shelves, and then got a table near the Highly Caffeinated Beverage Counter and tried to figure out which people were dressed up for the event and which were just out for a Friday night bookstore run. Not so easy a task, that.

So now we're home again, feeling more normal than we have in a long time. Didn't buy the book, because Mary's not allowed; she and Sarah have an agreement whereby Sarah will buy the book, read it in the coming week, and bring it out when she comes for Jacob's birthday next weekend, and Mary can go see the fifth movie. In IMAX 3D tomorrow night, which seems like proper revenge for delayed gratification.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Get Well Soon... or Not, Whatever
One of the recent topics of discussion in my house, of late, has been my mother-in-law's health, or lack thereof. This is a woman who has major surgery once a year; it's usually something medically necessary (removal of various optional parts, repair of broken parts, tire rotation and oil change) because she's prone to illness and accidents. I'd love, trust me how I'd love, to label her a hypochondriac, but from what I can tell most of these seem relatively legitimate.

And in between, in those rare years in which she doesn't have an illness or fall off her horse or bend down to tie her shoe and stand up abruptly into her side mirror (oh yes she did - got a concussion that time), she finds elective surgeries to tide her over. She had a breast reduction in 2003. I found this out when I went downstairs to tell her that dinner was ready, and she turned around and flashed me to show off her scars.

I still have blind spots in my vision from that one.

So, you may recall, a few weeks ago I was feeling weirded out by her stooped-over posture of ass-kissing. I didn't know why she was doing it, but in my experience, the woman is not nice to me without some explicit reason. Usually it's because I'm either pregnant or breastfeeding and she knows I won't hand over the child under those immediate circumstances (though if she thought I would, it would be a national news media type of event).

Well, we found out why. Turns out I was right; she wasn't just being nice to me for the sake of balancing out some of the worldwide karma from that whole Middle East deal. She was being nice to be because she had diagnosed herself with stomach cancer, blamed my dead father-in-law for it, and convinced herself that she had one year left to live.

It must be such fun living inside her head, don't you think?

I'm going to provide as near to a chronological narrative as I'm able to piece together; you can rest assured that I did not get the information delivered in an organized package. From what I can tell, about a month ago, she started having stomachaches and explosive flatulence after every meal. (And, yes, you're right. I did, indeed, get a most uncharitable thrill at the concept of my mother-in-law having explosive flatulence.) As a result of this, she stopped eating large amounts at a time, and, in turn, started losing weight.

Meanwhile, she'd forgotten that she'd had the initial unsocial gastrointestinal symptoms and resulting limited food intake, and began to panic at the fact that she was losing weight. Now, for at least the ten years that I've known her, this woman has been on a perpetual diet, constantly complaining about her size and then reaching for another bowl of ice cream. And she wasn't morbidly, or even just grimly, obese; she was a size-16 in a size-16 world. Anyway, now that she was actually losing weight, it freaked her out. Unwanted weight loss? Discomfort eating? Flatulence that could strike a roomful of frat boys after a bratwurst-eating contest into respectful silence? It must be stomach cancer!

Another difficulty with my mother-in-law is that she is a retired nurse, of the recovery room variety. This gives her just enough medical knowledge to be really, really annoying, with the haughty terminology to match, without actually being helpful to herself or others. So she waited a while to see a doctor, so as to really maximize that panic and worry, and have it miraculously coincide with Willem's visit.

She spent the week alternating between two of my very favorite displays: moping and melodrama. Willem and she decided to take the kids bowling; Willem and the kids bowled while she sat at a table, stared off into space, and sniffled every time she felt lonely. (Read: she may not have exhaled once the whole time, being so busy sniffling.) After a good mope, she would garner the energy to launch into a melodramatic rant, typically along the lines of, "The only way people ever get stomach cancer is by exposure to cigarette smoke. So if I do have it [dramatic pause], then I'll know that it was all H's fault, because he smoked like a chimney every day I knew him, and he made me breathe that poison every single day, and if I die from this then I will hunt him down wherever he is and kill him again."

Yes. Way to buck up stoically under pressure.

So, the week was a wash, and Willem and the kids came home cranky and high-maintenance, none of them having been expected to eat a single molecule of nutrition or clean up after themselves, and only two of them having been expected to regulate their bodily functions. It's been a period of adjustment for us all; them to recover from a week living in the wild and me to not kill them all and bury them in the backyard.

Then, last Friday, we got a phone call. Well, Willem got a phone call, and I had the audacity to answer it. Right away, I knew that we were back to normal again: "Oh. Kate. Yeah, hi. Is my son home?"

I had the surpreme pleasure of telling her, yes, but he's busy at the moment. So she had to be contented with relaying the news to me: she does not have stomach cancer. I don't know what manner of indelicate medical tests she had done, because I've become quite adept at selective deafness (the woman will discuss a surgical procedure and its resulting dead white corpuscles in excruciating detail at the dinner table, complete with comparisons to the food being served). But they proved that, no, it's not stomach cancer. It's a hiatal hernia, which she has opted not to have surgically corrected because apparently she is the only person with such a condition who is not a good candidate for laproscopic abdominal surgery. (I did not ask her if that has anything to do with her head being shoved up in the way down there.) In essence, she has been on the receiving end of an all-natural stomach-stapling procedure; there is a certain karma to this following her endless obsession about weight.

She also "found out" that she has lactose intolerance. That deserves the dreaded visual quotes because I've known for years that she was lactose intolerant, because she told me. Whenever she visits, I cook without cheese, I supply non-dairy creamer, I listen to the preemptive woe-is-me before we have ice cream. But no, apparently I am mistaken, because this is brand-new hot-off-the-presses information to her. Okay.

I didn't post about it back when she was bemoaning her stomach cancer and imminent death because I just couldn't find the right words. Somewhere over the course of the past year - I think perhaps when she told Willem that I was not her family - I've stopped thinking of her as a family member, someone I would drop anything to help even if I can't stand their fundamental personality. It was very weird for me to hear of someone's illness and just not care; I couldn't even fake concern over it. When she dies, which we all understand won't be for another 30 years, I won't rejoice; she loves my children, in her way, and they love her. But the only times she is genuine with me is when she hates me.